Friday, August 6, 2010

PC Tonga G76 Packing Suggestions

PHOTO: WELCOME poster to Group 75 at Vava’u last year. G76 with be here soon!

‘Oku ou talitali fiefia koe ki Tonga kulupo Pisikoa fo’ou! On behalf of all the current PCVs in Tonga, I want to welcome all the future volunteers of PC Tonga Group 76. Hopefully all the invitations have been sent out and you all are getting pumped to live and work in the South Pacific. I cannot believe how fast time has flown by since I received my official of invitation to PC Tonga. All the stress and waiting have finally paid off, eh?

I have compiled a list of “general” packing ideas to help give you a better idea of what you can and can’t buy here in Tonga. I am an outer-island volunteer, so my daily lifestyle is very different from PCVs in the capitol city of Nuku’alofa. Furthermore, my packing list will be more beneficial for MALE volunteers, because I simply do not know what are considered “essential” for female volunteers in Tonga. Please contact one of the female PCVs for specific information (ex: shirts, skirts, etc.). There is a link on the bottom right of my blog for most of the PC Tonga blogs.

Please be advised that these are only SUGGESTIONS and it will be impossible to bring everything. Remember that you joined the Peace Corps, so you will most likely have to give up most of the comforts we have from back home and “rough” it for the next 27 months. You will realize once you get here that you really do not need as many things as you originally thought. In addition, I have a feeling that most of PCVs in G76 will be placed in the main islands/population centers where resources are plentiful.

What to bring:

* A laptop—although not a necessity to have a successful PC service, it will make your life a lot easier. Internet is slow in Tonga, but there is internet in most places or you can travel to get online (like me). Just make sure it is insured, because Tonga will wear it down.

* An external hardrive—makes sure all your files are backed up, because you never know when your laptop suddenly dies.

* Special adaptors—Tonga uses the same plug-in as New Zealand and Australia. Double-check with all your electronics before you bring them.

* MP3 player—drowns the sound of chickens in the morning.

* Portable speakers—for the beach…if you want.

* Headlamp—I use to make fun of people who had headlamps, but they are one of the best things ever invented.

* Nalgene/water bottle and camelback—save the earth. Don’t buy plastic water bottles all the time. Easy to carry around and free water.

* A couple of hanging baskets—keeps fresh food away from ants and other unwanted guests.

* A good set of knives—most knives here are crap.

* A Brita filter—my sister sent me one from the States. It has been one of the best additions to my house. I still boil my water before I place it in the Brita. Better safe than sorry.

* Hammock—best for beach days or to lounge around in your house.

* Your favorite spices—salt, pepper, cinnamon etc. may be purchased in some stores. If you like Cajun, Creole, Steak spices etc. It would be best to bring some with you.

* Gifts for your homestay family—I suggest something unique from your home state/city. Little toys/dolls are great for the children.

* Photos—everyone loves to see them and they make your house homey.

* Sleeping bag—great for camping and also a blanket during the cold months here in Tonga. Yes, it is freezing right now at night.

* Snorkel and fins—why would you not bring some?

* Special medications and contact solution—just bring enough that will last you until December. Have friends or families mail it to you regularly.

* A simple watch—one that can get wet.

* Raincoat—it rains a lot during the wet season…weird?

* Sunglasses and an extra pair of prescription glasses—it’s sunny here all the time and your glasses are bound to break FYI.

* Swiss Army Knife—you never know when you will need one.

* Sewing kit—things will get damaged.

* Camera—one PCV brought a dual underwater/land CANON camera which I have been pretty jealous about. There are a ton of photo opportunities in Tonga.

* Measuring cups/spoons—hard/impossible to find here.

* Bring something unique—just because you’re in Tonga doesn’t mean you can’t bring a piece of home with you. Bring a guitar if you like or a reasonable musical instrument. If you like rock climbing, bring your special shoes when you explore ‘Eua.

What I wouldn’t bring:

* A frying pan—the options of pots/pan here in Tonga have improved dramatically. Just make sure you purchase one in Tonga that is not made in China and it will last. (No offense to China made products).

* Extra batteries—bring some that will last you to PST with your electronics. You can easily buy batteries here in Tonga, but difficult to find in Ha’apai where PST will take place.

* “Fancy” shoes—I don’t know why I bought my nice pair of black shoes for “important” functions in Tonga. The truth is you where flip flops all the time.

* Extra medical supplies such as band-aids, antacids, sun block etc.—PC will give you medical box upon arrival to Tonga.

* Mosquito nets—PC will provide you one.

* Shaving cream/unnecessary toiletry items—get use to shaving your face with regular soap. You can purchase soap and shampoo down here. Unless you require special shampoo such as T-Gel or some kind of conditioner, then bring enough to last through PST.

* Too many pants/fancy clothes—you will wear your tupenu (only available in Tonga) 80% of the time in Tonga.

* “Fancy” watches—get the simple/cheap ones from Target or Wal-Mart.

What to bring for men:

* 3-4 button up short sleeve shirts—I suggest buying North Face, Eddie Bauer, and REI brand clothing. They will last the longest with the all the hand washing.

* 1 long sleeve black button up shirt—for funerals. They will happen more than you think.

* 1 long sleeve shirt with tie—for special events.

* 1 board shorts for swimming.

* 1-2 pair of jeans/pants—something to wear if you have a night out in town.

* 3-4 gym shorts—depends if you work out regularly and for lounge wear.

* 4-6 t-shirts/polo—everyday wear. Try to wear clothes that are plain and not attract too much attention to you. You already stand out as it is.

* 2-3 undershirts/white beaters—optional.

* 2 quick dry shirts—I suggest one long and one short sleeve.

* 2-3 shorts—one khaki and one black. Try to get shorts that cover/comes down to the knees. It is rude to show too much knees during kava circle. Again, better safe than sorry.

* 1 pair of tennis shoes—if you like to run or go for long walks.

* 1-2 pair of Keen/Chaco/Reef sandals—black would be the ideal color. You literally wear sandals everywhere you go. Therefore, it is good to bring a pair that can get wet or go for a hike with. Make sure you find a pair with good arch support, especially if you have flat feet. It is best to have a sandal that can withstand a puncture from nail or other sharp objects. I brought Keen hiking boots with me, but I have never used them once when I hike.

* Socks—if you are planning on bring tennis shoes.

* 8-12 of boxers/underwear—can never go wrong with bringing extra.

* 1-2 fleece/light jacket—it gets chilly during the winter months. I have a fleece and a light sweater on hand.

PHOTO: Poli’s Fangale’olunga group at our goodbye dinner at PST by our host families.

Black is a safe color to wear in Tonga. Many events actually require black attire. Avoid flamboyant clothing. Tonga is a very conservative Christian country. You get away with more things in Nuku’alofa than anywhere else, but it is important to be respectful in the host country all the time. You’re a Peace Corps Volunteer remember?

For FEMALE volunteers:

Sorry, I am not so helpful and wise with this section. I just know you need to have skirts that cover way below the knees with tops that do not show and shoulders or cleavage. Think conservative. Contact one of the female PCVs in Tonga for more details. Check the link on the bottom right of the blog page.

QUESTIONS/COMMENTS/COMPLAINTS: please let me know and I will try my best to help you out. PC limits everyone to 80 pounds for their baggage allowance, but it’s better to follow the airline baggage allowance. I was one of a few people who actually followed the 80 lbs. limit, but everyone else had brought 100 lbs. You will most likely fly Air New Zealand which last year allowed 50 pounds per check-in bag. They just passed a new rule though that only allows each person to have one free check-in baggage at 50 lbs. Any additional baggage is $50 USD? I am not sure if PC will compensate for the second bag or not. You may want to confirm with the PC Pacific desk before heading to the staging event in Los Angeles.

Please remember that these items are only suggestions and you can prioritize yourself which items are more important to you. You cannot bring everything. THINK LESS! You will be surprise how much you actually need. If anything, you can always have things mailed to Tonga.

Happy packing :D

Call me for a quick response!

PHOTO: TONGA awaits for your arrival :D


  1. I have mixed feelings reading this packing list ... on the one hand, it makes me incredibly excited ... and on the other, it makes me incredibly nervous.

    My current nomination is to serve as a teacher trainer in the Pacific Islands leaving in October - that pretty much tells me it would be Tonga ... however, I haven't received an invitation yet. The 6 week deadline is August 24th so I still have my fingers crossed!

    I'm hoping in the next few weeks I'll get my invite and be able to put some of this packing list to use!!! I guess it's just a waiting game to find out.